Like Succession, but in real life.
THE APPLE DIDN’T FALL FROM THE TREE. Japanese furniture chain Otsuka Kagu, founded in 1969, wasn’t doing so well by the early 2000s. So in 2009, the company’s board brought in the founder’s daughter Kumiko Otsuka to be president, in an attempt to turn things around. She did just that, refocusing an overwrought and expensive retail dinosaur, which had just lost ¥1.4 billion the year before. Their power struggle continued until 2015, though, when Kumiko’s 71-year-old father appeared at the company’s board meeting, demanding that he be able to return and saying that his daughter had taken his business into down-market, inferior goods.
DADDY’S GIRL? “I had five children,” he reportedly told the room. “Kumiko was the first and she was a difficult birth.” He succeeded in replacing her in July 2014—but the board had brought her back by January 2015 in a rare coup, parts of which were broadcast live in Japan.
This will be a familiar story for fans of Wolf Hall, the award-winning 2009 book by Hilary Mantel that breaks down the royal shenanigans in minute detail.
THE CHURCH OF PETTY. When Pope Clement VII refused King Henry VIII’s request for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the king decided that Catholicism just wasn’t for him any longer. Nor, really, was it for the English people. Referred to as the English Reformation, that decision would change the course of history—splitting the Roman Catholic Church into two and making King Henry the new head of the Church of England. Pope who?
Perhaps it’s difficult to pinpoint the world’s most contentious divorce, but Bill and Sue Gross’s is up there.
WAR OF THE ROSES. After decades of marriage, the billionaires have dragged everyone in their lives down with them during their breakup, accusing each other of spying, vandalism, and affairs. As reported by the New York Post in July 2018, after Bill lost his giant mansion in Laguna Beach, California, to his wife, he used “foul-smelling sprays” to make her new residence extra disgusting on his way out.
EXTRA CREDIT. He also reportedly placed dead fish in the vents and left “an art installation of cats with their facial features scratched out.”
Many fans of Evil Twin Brewing and Mikkeller beer companies have no idea that they are drinking the product of years of petty behavior. WHAT IS THE OPPOSITE OF CHEERS? Danish twin brothers Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø have a personal animus that hasn’t just affected their business; it has defined their lives. The pair have hardly spoken since 2010, though they have more in common with each other than just DNA and last names: The 42-year-olds are successful beer entrepreneurs. Mikkel is the owner of the Copenhagen-based Mikkeller, a brewery and chain of bars, while Jeppe owns Evil Twin Brewing—which he founded the year the brothers stopped speaking.
COMING TO AMERICA. Although sibling rivalry is nothing new, these twins also happen to do a lot of things in tandem—a result of pettiness or just genetics. (The exact cause for their animosity is unclear.) Both opened warehouse spaces in Queens just months apart, and both created Twin Peaks–inspired limited-edition brews soon thereafter. “He doesn’t even live here,” Jeppe sniped to the New York Times earlier this year. “He’s only been here five times.” Mikkel, of course, disagrees, the Times avers, “saying that he has visited New York at least 50 times.”
This real estate dispute might be the longest running case in Massachusetts Land Court.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It’s a fact that two Massachusetts men have been fighting over a single piece of beachfront property for more than 25 years—a battle so contentious that, in 2016, the Boston Globe profiled not the men but their fight. After developer Evan Wile bought a plot of land next to art dealer Jeffrey Horvitz’s house (land that he at one point had intended to buy) in the summer of 1991, Horvitz made it his life’s mission to prevent his new neighbor from actually building anything. Wile put up a swing set on the property, and Horvitz immediately filed suit, claiming that it was a “structure.”
AN ABBREVIATED LIST OF PETTY ACTIVITIES. Since then, both have been dragging the case through court (to the tune of millions in fees) and have resorted to comically villainous actions, such as Wile lining smelly Porta-Potties along the property boundary and, according to the Globe, dropping “rusted scrap metal, a crane bucket, and other construction debris” in perfect sight of Horvitz’s pool. Is it a coincidence that both properties have a clear view of a place called Great Misery Island?
Truth in advertising, or consequences.
MILE-LONG LAWSUIT. John Farley and Charles Noah Pendrack hired a lawyer after they read that Subway’s $5 foot-long sandwiches were often clocking in at under 12 inches. In 2013, the two friends filed a petty lawsuit, charging the chain with false advertising (“The case is about holding companies to deliver what they’ve promised,” the plaintiff’s lawyer told the New York Post) and ended up settling for half a million dollars (which mostly went to lawyers’ fees).
SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING. As the court later commented: “As a practical matter, the length of the bread does not affect the quantity of food the customer receives.”
It takes quite a bit to shock folks in Silicon Valley, where many CEOs openly enjoy the hedonistic, Burning Man lifestyle. But YaVaughnie Wilkins did more than stir the pot; she blew the lid right off.
THE SIGNS WERE ALL THERE. This really speaks for itself. At the time of the billboards’ release in 2010, Charles E. Phillips was still married.
The battle over paint colors might not even be over.
WHO OWNS A COLOR? “Artists at war after top sculptor is given exclusive rights to the purest black paint ever which is used on stealth jets,” announced the Daily Mail in 2016, breaking the news that London-based artist Anish Kapoor had purchased the exclusive rights to NanoSystems’s Vantablack, a pigment so dark, it absorbs “99.96% of light,” according to the company. Kapoor, one of the wealthiest artists in the world, ignored the criticism that followed, namely that he was hoarding the color, made of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays, all for himself.
INTO THE PINK. He ignored it, that is, until an artist named Stuart Semple took a jab at Kapoor by releasing “The World’s Pinkest Pink,” a hot-pink power paint with this fine print: “This ultra-bright paint by Stuart Semple is available to everyone except Anish Kapoor.” (Semple also hashtagged #ShareTheBlack on social media). Soon after, Kapoor posted an image to Instagram with his middle finger dipped in (supposedly) Semple’s pink—“Up yours,” it read. In response, Semple released a new pigment, “Black 2.0”—which is also “not available to Anish Kapoor.”
Divorce lawyers often claim to have seen it all, but this was a new one.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS. Splitting the assets is one of the hardest parts of any divorce, but some people take reparation to new heights. In 2009, Long Island doctor Richard Batista demanded that his estranged wife, Dawnell, pay him $1.5 million for the live-saving kidney he’d donated to her eight years before. She’d “repaid” him, he claimed, by sleeping with her physical therapist. “It put a hole in my heart that still exists,” Batista told the New York Daily News.
Who knows if he got that checked out, but a judge ruled in favor of Batista’s ex: The kidney was a gift, and asking for money in exchange for an organ? That’s illegal.
There is something comforting about the bratty young British rockers from the 1990s becoming middle-aged men but still staying, somehow, children.
OASIS DENIED. No brothers have defined petty sibling rivalry quite like the Gallaghers. The Oasis brothers were more famous for fighting than they were for performing, even when the band was at its peak. Rock-star antics are one thing, but these two seem to go after each other in ways so personal, so petty, that it transcends mere band rivalry. For example, when the band won best album of the past 30 years (an actual award) for (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? at the 2010 Brit Awards, Liam showed up to accept the award, thanking everyone but his brother Noel—and then throwing the award into the audience. (The two were already estranged.)
ONCE AGAIN, TWITTER TO THE RESCUE. Thanks to Twitter, the sibling rivalry has taken on a new, more digital dimension. In 2016, Liam tweeted a picture of Noel and the word “Potato.” As the former told Q magazine in August 2016: “Lots of people say I need to chill out about Noel. Not until they stop Twitter. That cunt will always get it from me.”